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The Pig, the Prime Minister and his Honourable Member


The British Prime Minister is alleged to have stuck his privates into the mouth of a (mercifully dead) pig. David Cameron cocked up, but it could happen to anyone. You are young. You are at a party. Someone starts passing around dead pigs…

How exactly does one react to #piggate #respectfulinterspeciesfacefuck #necrozoophillia? My American friends were horrified at the prime minister’s behaviour. Didn’t he realise the danger of handling raw pork? My Kiwi friends were offended. “What’s wrong with New Zealand lamb?” they asked.

The incident turned me off eating pork.  Fortunately, pork is not on the menu at Palomar, the Israeli restaurant in Soho, London.  Palomar is a branch of Machneyuda, apparently the hippest restaurant in Jerusalem. I was with the Kugel, a kind of South African JAP who insists on driving a 4×4 everywhere, wears leopardskin patterned clothes, calls everyone “doll” and never tips more than 5%.

Clockwise from top - the galley kitchen, Kabanah bread and Jerusalem Mess
Clockwise from top – the galley kitchen, Kubaneh bread and Jerusalem Mess

Middle Eastern food used to evoke memories of impecunious students being served mystery meat kebabs by hairy men of dubious hygiene. Yotam Ottolenghi changed all that by introducing Londoners to an explosion of Palestinian inspired flavours; Middle Eastern cuisine is now celebrated for a lot more than kebabs. The Kugel explained that while Ottolenghi served serious food in a casual atmosphere, Palomar was a party.  It sure felt like that.  The crowd roared as the chef took a break from cooking to play on an improvised drum kit consisting of a cutting board, a can of flour, a metal drying rack and a saucepan.  Watch the video below. Pass on sitting at tables in the slightly poky back room, and watch the action from the bar overlooking the galley kitchen.

We munched on delicious Kubaneh bread, a Yemeni Jewish sabbath special cooked overnight in a pot, sipped cocktails and selected from the tapas style menu.  The cocktails were meticulously made and beautifully presented, but not always successful.  The Lion’s Milk cocktail is a familiar Middle Eastern potion combining the anise flavour of arak with almond milk, mint and orange bitters.  Palomar’s version was delicately spiced – sweet and tart at the same time, with a heady perfume.  The Bish Bash Posh Wash is a mix of olive oil and butter washed vodka with Kummel, arak, and saline.  “Washing” alcohol consists of mixing the spirits with an oil based flavouring ingredient (olive and oil and butter in this case), popping it into the fridge until the oil rises to the surface and solidifies, scraping off the solids and filtering the alcohol through a muslin cloth.  There’s a buttery flavour and silkiness in the resulting spirit – but it is an awfully pretentious faff.  Despite the promise of the special vodka and a gorgeous home made stirrer made with sculpted sugar and whole spices, this drink lacked punch.

Pish Posh
The Bish Bash Posh Wash – note the glorious home made stirrer made of sugar and caraway seeds

The food on the other hand was superb and faultless.  There was a real sense of adventure as diners excitedly discussed their dishes with complete strangers.  The Israeli couple next to us rhapsodised over familiar flavours in unfamiliar combinations.  There is a raw bar here, but standout dishes included the beetroot carpaccio with burnt goat’s cheese, hazelnuts and a date and honey syrup (can beetroot taste this sinful?) and the Yiddish chicken liver pate bruschetta.  I could have eaten the Yiddish bruschetta all night.

There is passion in the cooking here but also sheer joy de vivré. The cooks were having fun – and their spirit is infectious! This is seriously inventive, extremely good food. No porkies!

Square Meal

More – an American perspective on #piggate

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